Every October, wherever you travel in Montenegro, you can smell ‘Rakija’ – the fiery loza distilled from Grappa, clear, smooth, 50% – 55% proof and unbelievably a favourite breakfast tipple for many!. This is the time of year when the drink is distilled creating a pleasant but distinctive aroma.
Many households own a still, (they can be bought from any good local garden center). This afternoon I joined Jelko, Mikki and Zee to help them with distilling.
Miiki and Zee own Portfino Restaurant on Bela Vista square in Herceg Novi. Jelko owns a 150 year old organic farm in the hills above Kuti – just below Mount Orijen. Each year they produce their own domestic red wine and this year about 50 litres of Rakija. They learned their skills from a neighbour who at 80 years old passed on his techniques and his local recipe collection so that the knowledge would not be lost.
Using locally sourced grapes at just under 20% sweetness, fermentation is natural – no sugar is added to the process. Each distilling takes about 3 hours, so 3 batches can be prepared each day.
Why not try it yourself?
Wine and Rakija making will be on offer to visitors and guests next year. The farmhouse will be opening as a Gastronomic cookery school with programs allowing guests to experience Balkans ‘living’ culture, as they source local ingredients and learn the centuries old arts of Mediterranean Balkan cuisine. Do you fancy night snorkeling for mussels? a trip out on a squid boat? hiking with villagers to collect herbs? a visit the stone olive mill? or shopping for fresh produce at the farmers market? At Kuti the cooking is only the last part of the process as visitors will need to experience as much of the lifesyle as the food. When the ingredients are collected guests will learn how to make traditional dishes unique to this region. Fun and informative cookery classes indoors and out. Organic food, raw food and eat local, specialities for all tastes… and the Rakija, of course. Come in season and make your own, to take home, or enjoy with all the local people you will meet during your trip.